Preliminary research data analysis of LSD consumption in Britain: a qualitative study

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In the Western world, the majority’s ideological values and beliefs are predominantly centred on materialism. Burroughs and Rindfleisch (2002) point out the contemporary mindset of Western individuals is affected by economic affluence. However, Burroughs and Rindfleisch (2002) argue that the pursuit of materialism can negatively affect human well-being. Kashdan and Breen (2007) emphasize a materialistic driven lifestyle can have adverse psychological consequences; self-esteem loss and the formation of maladaptive addictive behavioural patterns. Yet optimist Jackson (2011) believes the current cultural conditions are not permanent but instead fluid. Jackson (2011) states if humanity were made more aware of the destructiveness our consumeristic lifestyles are having on the worlds ecology, many would make permanent behavioural changes imminently. Introduction: In 21st century academia, we are witnessing the re-emergence of scientific interest in psychedelic compounds despite the obvious challenges posed by ethics committees. This is otherwise known as the ‘psychedelic renaissance’ (Sessa, 2012). The experiences of taking psychedelic drugs (often referred to as taking a ‘trip’) may be difficult to articulate for a number of reasons which defy conventional scientific reasoning. Reports (often anecdotal) include anomalous accounts such as out of body experiences, intense hallucinations increased sensuality to the immediate environment and other people, experiencing spiritual awakening, the death of the ego and brief glimpses of spiritual and ecological enlightenment resulting in changes in one’s ego structures and sense of self (Luke, 2012). Psychedelics may allow an individual to receive a different wave vibration of consciousness inaccessible in ordinary consciousness. Daniels (2001) asserts this is a spiritual experience that can offer humanity the potential to transcend the ecological crisis. Poll and Smith (2003) take the view this transformation of the personality synthesis can only occur when a person has undergone a change in their sense of self; the ‘spiritual identity’. One of the theories for the development of the spiritual theory is ‘narrative theories’. This can be understood as constructing an identity and using it to justify the story you have rationalised to yourself for why you behave the way you do. Poll and Smith (2003) outlined the 4 stages of spiritual development; pre-awareness, awakening, recognition and integration. Empirical quantifiable research has been carried out on psychedelic users and identity formation. Móró, Simon, Bárd and Rácz (2011) postulated psychedelic drug usage can have long-lasting consequences for one’s worldview. Five hundred and eighty-nine prior and current drug users completed an online drug survey. The findings were indicative that for many, psychedelic drug usage is intended for ‘self-knowledge’ and to ‘evolve’ one’s consciousness. Wolfson (2011) proposes that psychedelics offer psychology the best chance to rapidly transform our consciousness. They heighten our empathy, reconnect us with the divine and offer new meaning to our lives. One particular entheogen which has risen in scientific popularity is lysergic acid (LSD-25). LSD consumption has been related to in most cases to profound spiritual transformations. Pahnke (1967) outlined several transpersonal features of the LSD experience; cosmic unification, ineffable experiences and long-lasting positive changes in attitudes and behaviours. Recently, LSD has been a research topic favoured by neuroscientists. Cahart-Harris et al. (2016) carried out a double-blind placebo trial of LSD on 20 healthy volunteers. FMRI scans were indicative of a link between the psychedelic state of consciousness and drastic changes in one’s neural activities. The researchers found a significant relationship between ego-dissolution and decreased alpha waves (p <0.05). The authors suggested there is evidence that LSD alters brain activity in unusual ways. Since the 1990s, ‘ecopsychology’ has been considered a vital academic discipline. Ecological psychology is concerned with how individuals reason and behave in response towards the ‘planetary crisis’. Fransson and Gärling (1999) note there is a positive correlation between the consumerist times we live in and the rapidly increasing deterioration of world ecosystems. Steg and Vlek (2009) believe significant behavioural modifications will only transpire once humanity appreciates the symbiotic relationship between humans, wildlife and ecosystems. Subsequently, there is an ever-growing body of scientific inquiry into the potential positive psychological transformations psychedelic drugs can offer. Luke (2013) states that hallucinogens are viewed as sacred amongst the Wixitarian of Mexico, Shamanic and Pagan groups. As a result, these communities have modified their behaviours so that their behaviours are eco-friendly. A research area less explored in the psychedelic field is its links to parapsychological/anomalous experiences. The international leading expert in this field is parapsychologist Dr David Luke. Luke (2010) explains many anthropologists have experienced a diverse range of paranormal phenomena during psychedelic sessions. Particularly, users of hallucinogens can experience a range of paranormal phenomena including extrasensory perception and in rare cases psychokinesis. Particularly, individuals during ayahuasca ceremonies are known to regularly experience telepathy with other members of the group. Luke (2008) explains that many of these accounts cannot be empirically tested using quantitative analyses. Luke (2008) suggests the experiential quality of these experiences is more favourable towards qualitative methods of analysis. Luke (2006) outlines this field is in its early stages and there requires greater qualitative data before experimentalists can consider testing these experiences empirically. This a key area for this work. Transpersonal and perhaps parapsychological states of consciousness induced by psychedelics suggest promise for positively affecting the human personality synthesis. However, irrespective of promising quantifiable results, the field is still short of phenomenological qualitative research on LSD users in Britain. The aim of this proposed project is to explore the parapsychological transpersonal, , ecological and positive psychological dimensions of LSD use. Methods: The present study aims to explore LSD users’ experiences of intoxication and how they construct their experiences using qualitative methodology and thematic analysis. From this study, the research team are hopeful to learn more about how the psychedelic community portrays themselves and how they assign meaning to their LSD ‘trips’. Subsequently, this research is interested in the myriad ways LSD users’ position and make meaning of their own (perhaps transformational) self and social identity before and after LSD use. For example, do people who have used LSD in the past position themselves as spiritual beings who have an insight into the world not available to non-users of LSD? How do LSD users make sense of any anomalous experiences they may have? We are also interested in the social context of where LSD has been taken. Is it preferable to be taken within an organised gathering of a social group of other LSD users (such as a free party or rave which are held outside in remote, rural locations) or indeed, are people’s experiences spiritually heightened by being in very small groups in a confined man-built domain?. We have undertaken 5 one-to-one, semi-structured interviews to date and a thematic approach (Braun & Clarke, 2006) has been undertaken to analyse the collected data. We followed the six steps of analysis as outlined by (Braun & Clarke, 2006) to provide 3 main themes: Making sense of Anomalous Experiences; Spirituality and Ecology. Results/Discussion Our preliminary findings have indicated that anomalous experiences, nature, spirituality, altered states of consciousness (both temporary and long-lasting) and transformative identities are key areas for further discussion.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2017
Event60th Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association - Athens, Greece
Duration: 20 Jul 201723 Jul 2017


Conference60th Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association
OtherThe Parapsychological Association (PA) will be coming to Greece to host Athens’ first international parapsychology meeting in 87 years. The event will be held at the Titania Hotel near Syntagma square, where scientists and scholars from around the world will gather for three days of paper presentations, workshops, and panel discussions on the latest research into psi and related phenomena, such as extra-sensory perception, psychokinesis, psychic healing, altered states of consciousness, mediumship and possible survival of bodily death. Organized by PA Members Callum E. Cooper and Nikolaos Koumartzis, the event will be open to the public and to academics alike.
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